“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” ― John Green
When I first decided to change my life and finally lose weight 18 months ago, all I could think about was getting thin and shedding the pounds. Nothing else mattered. I just didn’t want to be fat anymore. Then, a few months later, in the summer of 2012 after dropping a lot of the weight, I decided I didn’t just want to be skinny, I wanted to be fit and strong – I wanted to do amazing, remarkable things… things I never could have dreamed of before I started all of this. It was then that I decided to set another goal. That goal was to run a half-marathon. This goal was coming from a girl who could not run for more than 10 seconds at a time. I don’t know why, but I was crazy enough to think that someday I could do it. And I did. On July 20, 2013, 18 months and 117 pounds later, I did it.
“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. Hard is what makes it great.” – A League of Their Own
Nothing about running this half-marathon was easy. Not the losing the weight, not the learning to run, not the training, not the early mornings, and certainly not the grueling runs. There were moments that I struggled and I questioned whether or not I could really do it. I knew deep down in my heart that I could, but sometimes self-doubt creeped in and I wondered. I would tell myself “you’re not an athlete. You never have been. It’s a natural born ability, being athletic, and that’s not you.” And it’s true… that’s not me. I have never been an athlete, but I know now that even if you don’t have that natural ability, if you work hard enough at ANYTHING, you can do it, so I did it.
“Take pride in how far you have come. Have faith in how far you can go.”
Even though the half-marathon was 13.1 miles, the longest run I did leading up to it was 9.3 miles in my 15K, and in the months leading up to the race, I did a lot of 6 mile runs and a few 8 mile runs. I felt like I was going to die during many of them, but I kept on pushing forward and persevering the best I could. It’s funny to me that nowadays I consider 6 miles to be a short run, when literally just one year ago, I could not run for more than a few seconds. It’s funny because less than a year ago, I was celebrating running my first lap around the track, then celebrating running my first mile, then running my first two miles… and now, apparently, I can run 13.1 miles! It’s funny how things can change so quickly, and it’s crazy how much hard work really does pay off. The fact that I am running is proof of this.
“Persistence supersedes talent, genetics and luck. There can be no true success without it.”
It’s humbling for me when I sit back and really think about where I was when I first started running, how much has changed, and how much I have been able to accomplish by having determination and persistence. Since the day I started running, every time I was out there on a run, I would envision myself crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon. A lot of times, I would get choked up just thinking about it because I knew I was going to do it someday, it was just a matter of when. And in the moments during my runs that I physically felt like I could not take one more step, imagining myself crossing the finish line would push me to keep going and propel me forward.
“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.” – Bill Bowerman
The race was a mixture of emotions and thoughts. My first four miles felt strong and easy breezy. I waved to my aunt, smiling, as she filmed me nearing mile one. I felt confident and fast. By the end of the race, my legs felt like lead and I did NOT feel confident. I inhaled water too quickly at the mile eight aid station and almost threw up from gagging on it. I began walking more frequently because my legs were screaming in pain. I wondered, a time or two, why the hell I had wanted to run this race so badly that I would suffer such pain voluntarily and willingly.
“It’s very hard to understand in the beginning that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.” – George Sheehan
Those moments were fleeting, however, and I quickly reminded myself of why I was doing this race. I remembered in the moments that speedy runners sped by me while shouting “great job, keep it up!” I remembered in the moments that the volunteers handed me fluids with a smile on their face and an encouraging word. I remembered in the moment that my favorite running song, “Good Feeling” came on my iPod and I picked up the pace because I’d been running to that song for a year. I remembered in the moment that I laughed with a fellow runner that I had been anxiously seeking out the mile 10 sign, but had passed it minutes ago; it had just fallen down, she informed me (Oh, the relief that I really had passed the double digit marker!). I remembered in the moment that my friend and running mentor, Missy, who had already completed the race, joined me in my last mile as I trudged along. I remembered, most of all, in the moment that I crossed the finish line and heard my name being called, and saw my family smiling at me and hugging me.
“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running, and in the journey, not in the destination.” – John Bingham
This race was the hardest thing I have ever done physically. Running for 3+ hours… it begins to feel like a journey, not just a run. There were so many ups and downs, so many highs and lows both emotionally and physically. I felt like I was running forever, which I kind of was. I want to remember everything about this journey. I want to remember carb-loading the night before, but also eating spicy chili and laughing about it in the morning when I started to worry I might have an issue during the race (but I didn’t). I want to remember sitting in bed the night before, watching “Running on the Sun,” and feeling a little bit like it was Christmas Eve night. I want to remember anxiously waiting at the starting line to do the “early start” for slow runners who can start 30 minutes early. I want to remember the few times the rain started trickling and I started running faster to try to beat the bad rain. I want to remember the sense of community, the fact that the fast runners never looked down on the slow runners, and encouraged us instead. I want to remember everything, including all the hard work and training I put in over the last year, (and also the runs I skipped!).
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – Paul Coelho
More than anything, I want to remember when I crossed the finish line. That was the moment I made my dream come true. It was the moment I went from “reluctant runner” to “half-marathoner.” It was the moment I had been waiting for and working towards for 365 days. In that moment, all of the hard work, pain, sore ankles, side stitches, sweat, and moments of doubt became worth it. In that moment, I finally became the stronger, better, more awesome version of me I’ve been becoming.
“No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.”
Here are the facts. I completed the race in 3 hours and 7 minutes. This is, by no means, a respectable time. In fact, the winners completed the race in just over an hour. I came in second to last out of more than 400 runners. I knew all along I would be one of the last to finish, but I never cared for one second. Finishing last is better than never finishing at all which is infinitely better than never starting. I had the courage to start, but more importantly, to finish.
“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Someday I will run a full marathon. Towards the end of the race, I told Missy I could not imagine running double what I had just run, but I also used to feel that way about the half, and now I’ve done it. Right now my goal is just to run another half-marathon in under three hours. After that, I will tackle the training required to run a full (26.2 miles). For now, however, I want to continue basking in the joy of completing a half-marathon. I did what I set out to do… the seemingly impossible.
“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go.It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about. ” – Patti Sue Plummer